Ari Derfel of Berkeley, California, saved his trash - including what he generated when he went out - for an entire year and ended up with a kitchen and then a living room full (96 cubic feet to be exact) of mostly food packaging, bits of paper, and the odd condom. He composted all his food scraps and over time, became obsessively careful about what he bought and consumed. As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, Derfel's experiment was a vivid demonstration of the fact that while we throw away lots and lots of trash, much of it never really goes completely away.
One of the most interesting and thought-provoking results of Derfel's experiment was his feelings around trash maintenance - he spent a lot of time sorting, and rinsing and drying his trash, the pre-process many of us are well-acquainted with in preparation for recycling, which Derfel denounces as 'wasteful' in his blog, saveyourtrash.
"Of course recycling is a powerful first step in becoming aware of what one consumes," Derfel says. "That said, [recycling] takes enormous amounts of energy and clean water..."
While Derfel says recycling is a needed alternative to using up raw materials, it can also show a lack of effective design around our own consumption. Why for example, must we all take home untold take-out packages instead of having personal, reusable containers? Derfel plans to give his accumulated trash pile to an interested artist - there's gotta be a treehugger out there who qualifies. Via ::SF Chronicle
Reduce, reuse, recycle. There's a reason why they're in that order. I remember when I heard about Ed Begley, Jr. fitting all his trash into his mailbox...I don't recall if it was one week's, one month's, or what. I think cutting back on packaging in any significant fashion would be harder than any other environmental undertaking. It really permeates to the core of our way of life. But just because it's a daunting task doesn't mean we should give up without even trying. Baby steps...